5 Terrible Things We Do To Our Minds Everyday

by Max Wong

Are you tired of your brain working at its optimal level every day? Are you too emotionally balanced? Are you sick to death of your good memory? If you are one of those people who suffer from having too much personal bandwidth, good news: You can stop having full cognitive function today! Here are five scientifically proven ways to destroy brain function that anyone can do

Young African American woman sleeping in a computer class.

1. Sleep Deprivation

Why are you sleeping eight hours when you can sleep fewer? Road rage and erratic driving due to sleep deprivation will make your morning commute much more interesting.

Also, work is so boring, so you might as well sleep through part of your day at the office or in the cockpit. Hard decisions build character, so why not make even the easiest choices into Sophie’s Choices just by waking up way earlier than you should? If you are paying for college, then it should be your choice whether or not to learn anything new or remember anything old. Why bother with memorizing anything when smartphones exist?

Less sleep means more time for…other things that damage long and short-term memory. The Center for Disease Control calls insufficient sleep a public health epidemic, reporting that 30% of American adults sleep fewer than six hours every day.

2. Multitasking

Do you know what scientists call people who don’t multitask? Productive thinkers. I mean who among us doesn’t love bragging about our multitasking abilities! Why? Because it gives us street cred with all the OG masters of time slippage. Obviously.

Pretty much every scientific study shows that multitasking reduces efficiency and performance because the human brain lacks the processing power to do more than one thing at a time. When you multitask, you actually do each task more slowly than if you’d done them one at a time. But why would anyone want to do one thing really well, when you could do four things poorly all at once? More is more after all.

About 98% of the population, regardless of their (inefficient and low-performance) magical thinking, is physically incapable of multitasking. Which means that the 2% of the population who can actually multitask exist mainly to make all others believe that they are part of this outlier super-tasker group.

Heavy multitaskers, with all their practice at doing too many things at once, are actually the worst at organized thinking.

In addition to slowing down workflow, multitasking lowers IQ by as much as 15 points for men, the equivalent of dropping cognitive capacity from that of a Harvard MBA to an eight-year-old child. So the next time you get behind at work, you should just get your third grader to help you pick up the slack. Your boss will probably never notice. Interestingly, that old gendered argument that women are better multitaskers than men is validated by this study. Multitasking only makes women dumber by five IQ points, which is equivalent to going to work stoned. Luckily, your cognitive loss from multitasking will not show up on a urine test, however scientists have created a test that you can take that measures multitasking-induced stupidity.

3. Stress

Why settle for temporary cognitive dysfunction when you can shrink key parts of your brain permanently? Several studies have now linked stress with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and accelerated memory loss with aging. This is great news for poor people who live with constant, crushing stress. Why worry about planning for the future if you know you’ll lose your mind before you get there?

4. Rumination

As someone who enjoys Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I can tell you from personal experience that rumination is a fast and easy method of making yourself miserable. For newbies to repetitive negative thinking, rumination is the practice of dwelling on negative experiences or thoughts. For example, a negative thought might be “why am I so depressed about my boyfriend multitasking with that girl at the muffin shop?”

In a study of San Franciscans who had lived through the 1989 earthquake, Yale University psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, PhD found that self-described ruminators had more symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder from the experience, than non-ruminators. Practice makes perfect! The more you ruminate, the easier it is to perpetuate low confidence and uncertainty.

5. Constant Entertainment

Do you remember what it was like before you could fill every spare moment with information? For example, do you remember what it was like to stand in a line at the post office without the ability to play Words With Friends, or how boring the gym was before they installed televisions on the treadmills? Life was super dull. But do you remember ever feeling as awesomely overwhelmed by data as you do now?

Marc G. Berman, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan, discovered that people learned significantly better after a walk in nature versus a walk in an urban environment. His team posits that although visual noise is stimulating, our now constant access to entertainment is actually causing brain fatigue. A study by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco found that when the brain is constantly stimulated, the learning process is prevented. Just like computers take time to download information, the brain actually needs downtime to process information and store it as a memory.

Oh pshaw! I’ve lost entire verb tenses in Italian in my quest for a better car commute. Who needs the subjunctive mood when one can binge listen to the entire podcast of Serial?

 

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